Afghanistan

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Afghanistan has long been a crossroads of world cultures, economies, politics, and militaries. RAND's early research on Afghanistan examined the 1980s Soviet military campaign and the subsequent fundamentalist Islamic regime. Since Operation Enduring Freedom, the 2001 U.S. military effort to rout the Taliban and find Osama bin Ladin's Al Qaeda network, RAND has engaged the new Afghan government, military, and people to support reconstruction, counterinsurgency, and nation-building efforts.

  • A U.S. flag is seen at a post in Deh Bala district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, after U.S. and Afghan forces cleared Islamic State fighters from the area, July 7, 2018

    Report

    Likely Effects of a Precipitous U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan

    Jan 16, 2019

    Winning may not be an option in Afghanistan, but an early departure of U.S. forces without a peace settlement will mean choosing to lose. The result will be the weakening of deterrence and the value of American reassurance elsewhere, an increased terrorist threat, and the possibility of having to return there under worse conditions.

  • Soldiers set off for a foot patrol after disembarking from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter in Afghanistan, September 4, 2018

    Commentary

    The Risks of Permanent War

    Sep 28, 2018

    Why is America in Afghanistan? What interests justify its sacrifices? How will the war end? If the United States finds it hard to answer such questions after nearly two decades, the coming years are unlikely to provide clarity. If a campaign has no end, it can have no objective. If it has no objective, it cannot be won.

Explore Afghanistan

  • News Release

    Humanitarian Relief and Reconstruction Program Helped Improve Economic Conditions and Security in Afghanistan

    The ability of the U.S. military to quickly provide small-scale humanitarian relief and reconstruction services in Afghanistan enhanced the operational effectiveness of U.S. forces there during the counterinsurgency-focused 2010-2013 time frame.

    Oct 13, 2016

  • Key Leader Engagement attendees observe a solar-powered water pump while discussing ongoing projects in Farah province, Afghanistan, September 28, 2013

    Report

    CERP Projects in Afghanistan Proved Effective

    Projects under the Commander's Emergency Response Program in Afghanistan ranged from rehabilitating a local well to hydro dam and reservoir restoration. The U.S. military's ability to provide humanitarian relief and reconstruction services enhanced the operational effectiveness of its forces there.

    Oct 13, 2016

  • An Afghan Local Police recruit receives his certificate of completion on graduation day in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, September 26, 2013

    Report

    Afghan Government Support for Local Police Program Is Shaky

    Established by U.S. and NATO special operations forces, the Afghan Local Police program was designed to become part of the Afghan Ministry of Interior Affairs (MOI). The MOI has made progress in logistics, personnel management, and training activities, but faces serious gaps in its ability to sustain the program.

    Jul 21, 2016

  • Journal Article

    China Ponders Post-2014 Afghanistan: Neither "All In" nor Bystander

    Since 2001, China has warily watched the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and associated footprint in Central Asia.

    Jun 28, 2016

  • ISmoke billows from a building after a Taliban attack in Gereshk district of Helmand province, Afghanistan, March 9, 2016

    Blog

    Strategic Reversal in Afghanistan

    A new contingency plan considers what an unraveling of Afghanistan's political and security situation over the next 18 months would mean — and what can be done to prevent it.

    Jun 24, 2016

  • An Afghan National Army soldier keeps watch at a check post in Logar province, Afghanistan, February 16, 2016

    Commentary

    Afghanistan After Mansour

    The death of Taliban leader Akhtar Mohammad Mansour is unlikely to transform the conflict in Afghanistan or improve the prospects for a deal between Kabul and the Taliban. In the coming months, the U.S. presence in the country will be as important as ever.

    Jun 17, 2016

  • Dissertation

    Political Leadership in Afghanistan: Identifying and Assessing Determining Factors

    This study explores the factors that lead to a political leader in Afghanistan being defined as "good," "strong," or "popular" -- as well as what needs to be done to improve political leadership for future generations.

    May 20, 2016

  • Gayle Tzemach Lemmon speaks at a RAND Policy Circle briefing at RAND's headquarters campus in Santa Monica, California, September 21, 2015

    Blog

    Special Ops Women: A Conversation with Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

    Best-selling author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon discusses how recent conflicts changed the role of U.S. military women, the missing story about women in uniform, and more.

    Apr 26, 2016

  • Afghan security forces keep watch after a suicide car bomb attack on a government security building in Kabul, Afghanistan, April 19, 2016

    Commentary

    The Taliban's Persistent Threat

    The United States and its NATO allies have been scaling back their military commitment in Afghanistan. The Taliban, in response, have been scaling up their operations, inflicting unprecedented heavy casualties on Afghan government forces and gaining increased control over much of the countryside.

    Apr 21, 2016

  • Advisor Training Cell prepares female engagement team for Marine Expeditionary Unit employment, at Camp Pendleton, California

    Commentary

    Women in Special Security Forces: What the U.S. Can Learn from the Afghans

    The contributions of the women in Afghanistan's special security forces demonstrate the unique value that women can bring to special operations forces in socially conservative societies. They are successful in tactical roles and in operations requiring interaction with the community.

    Mar 28, 2016

  • U.S. Special Forces soldiers prepare to leave Haji Aslam village in Khakarez district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, March 24, 2014

    Report

    A Counterinsurgency Win in Afghanistan?

    The 2015 counterinsurgency (COIN) effort in Afghanistan ranks among the low end of historical COIN winners. The Afghan government and security forces are capable of maintaining the current stalemate with the Taliban. This is the first step on the most promising path to peace: a negotiated settlement.

    Feb 4, 2016

  • Afghan carpet salesmen fold a carpet after showing it to customers at a shop in Kabul

    Report

    Lessons from the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations in Afghanistan

    Economic development is likely to remain a key component of U.S. contingency operations. Assessing the activities of the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations in Afghanistan offers insights for similar projects in the future.

    Jan 12, 2016

  • Pakistani Taliban fighters, who were arrested by Afghan border police, stand during a presentation of seized weapons and equipment in Kabul, Afghanistan, January 5, 2016

    Commentary

    Pakistan Holds the Key to Peace in Afghanistan

    Sustained and intensified U.S. pressure on Pakistan offers the only viable path to advancing the Afghan reconciliation process in a way that does not turn Afghanistan into a launching pad for terrorism and extremism.

    Jan 11, 2016

  • Report

    Toppling the Taliban: Air-Ground Operations in Afghanistan, October 2001–June 2002

    This report describes the preparations for Operation Enduring Freedom, Army operations and support activities, coalition issues, and civil-military operations in Afghanistan from October 2001 through June 2002.

    Jan 4, 2016

  • Journal Article

    Contractors on the Battlefield: When and How? Using the US Military's Risk Management Framework to Learn from the Balkans Support Contract

    This study provides insight into the role and value of contractors and challenges facing the government as it seeks to best integrate the skills and capabilities it needs; these skills are increasingly principally resident in the private sector.

    Dec 29, 2015

  • Afghan National Army officers stand at attention at the Kabul Military Training Center, Afghanistan, October 7, 2015

    Commentary

    Improving the U.S. Security Assistance Model

    The United States often approaches security assistance the same way it did in Vietnam, with the same results. A better way would be to focus on politics and shaping the political context.

    Nov 18, 2015

  • Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani and U.S. President Barack Obama after their joint news conference in Washington March 24, 2015

    Commentary

    Saving Afghanistan: More Than Just Troops

    President Obama's decision to preserve troop strength in Afghanistan is a major step in the right direction. But his commitment to continued support for President Ghani and the national unity government as they pursue critical reforms will determine whether the U.S. troop commitment has any value.

    Nov 5, 2015

  • Buprenorphine, a physician-prescribed tablet, is used to treat opioid addiction

    Essay

    Opioid Rising: How to Stop the World's Growing Heroin Crisis

    Sixty-seven people will die today in America because of heroin or narcotic painkillers, if recent overdose statistics are any guide. RAND research offers strategies to save those lives and thousands more around the world.

    Oct 20, 2015

  • NATO soldiers near a damaged NATO military vehicle at the site of a suicide car bomb blast in Kabul, Afghanistan, October 11, 2015

    Commentary

    More Boots Isn't Enough to Save Afghanistan

    Until there is a viable political strategy for Afghanistan, any modicum of U.S. troops is, at best, playing not to lose. Doing better than that will require promoting three dimensions of political change in Afghanistan and between Kabul and Islamabad.

    Oct 16, 2015

  • U.S. soldiers arrive at the site of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 17, 2015

    Commentary

    Keeping U.S. Troops in Afghanistan: RAND Experts React

    Several RAND experts agree that sticking to the plan to remove all troops from Afghanistan by the end of next year would have ignored the reality on the ground and made an unstable situation more so.

    Oct 15, 2015